Weekly Countdown: The summer league is not all fun and games
LAS VEGAS -- I spent almost four days here, which is equivalent to 17 days anywhere else ...
It's always hard to know what to make of the performances at summer league, where only a few players from each team will be playing in the NBA next season. Golden State rookie
Summer league forces rookies like Love and
"The biggest thing I need to improve is my defense,'' Love said. "I have to do it if I'm going to play alongside
Love was adapting to the speed of NBA offenses -- "You've got to be able to get up the floor in the first four seconds,'' he said -- the size of the opponents and the professional mentality.
"In the NCAA tournament, you're playing for your school, playing for your passion,'' he said. "Out here, you're kind of playing for a paycheck a little bit."
But he's trying not to do that. "I'm just playing, chasing a game, not chasing the money, and just going after it," he said.
The point of this event for rookies like Love is not to be satisfied with the artificial numbers on the stat sheet. It's about gauging themselves for the season ahead. Love has lost 15 pounds since his freshman season, but he realizes he has a lot more to work away.
"The biggest thing now is just the wind and the body fat,'' he said. "I want to get to under 10 [percent body fat]. I'm about 12 or 11.5 percent right now. I was 15 to 16 percent [last season], so that's significant, being down that much. I'm going to hire either a nutritionist or a chef just to write it off on my taxes. I'm learning all the different stuff, even at 19, about the accountants and the things you can write off.''
"I've been playing different styles each of my three years in the NBA and now for the fourth one,'' said Robinson, who will be playing for his third NBA coach. "I'm just trying to get a head start on everything and see how it feels to play in this type of basketball up and down the floor.''
Most of the 21 rosters were filled with rookies or second-year pros. But free agents like 31-year-old
Robinson is going to be a Sixth Man Award candidate in D'Antoni's offense, based on the speed, strength and instincts for playing in the open floor that he showed this week. He had no issues with playing in this minor-league format after three years in the NBA.
"It gives you a feel of the NBA, what it's going to be like,'' he said. "Every guy in here is not as good as guys in the NBA, but everybody here is trying to get a job. So they're going to play their heart out. If we've got guys who play hard and are competitive, that's going to bring the competitiveness out of you and you're going to play hard and get ready for the upcoming season.
"[At summer league] you'll never see
The growth of this summer league has also helped win acceptance for Las Vegas as a potential home for an NBA franchise. The more time that the league spends here, the more it will understand a market that used to frighten it.
As an expatriate American forward, Szczerbiak played 11 years in Europe while becoming one of the great players in Spain during a seven-year run with Real Madrid through 1980. Since 1986, he has been a talent evaluator and "official U.S. representative'' for the Spanish ACB, which is the world's finest national league outside the NBA. I've seen Szczerbiak scouting the summer leagues here and in Boston for years, and he has no easy job.
"It takes a lot of concentration because I have to write something on every single player,'' he said. "This is a hard event because there are 21 teams. My ideal number is to see everybody three times, but I might not be able to do that here because they use two different gyms.''
Among his proudest summer-league finds were center
"This is the place to come,'' Szczerbiak said. "Where else can you see so many players in one place who have the talent level to play in a league like the ACB?''
There aren't going to be any new teams domestically. If the league is to expand, it will be to grow new franchises in Europe per commissioner
I can't imagine an existing team moving to Mexico City or Vancouver, which lost its franchise to Memphis and isn't going to get another chance. It's in the best interest of Oklahoma City owner
Highly unlikely. Each of those players would have a hard time finding a team with cap space to award him a salary equal to or greater than he is receiving from the Knicks today. Their value may rise as the team improves, but for the moment Walsh is going to have to clear space via trades.
The terms of the buyout are applied to the cap. If a player making $8 million per year agrees to a buyout worth $6 million per year, then his value on the salary cap will be $6 million annually.
They're going to miss
The only motive I can imagine for the club would be to negotiate a $500,000 NBA buyout in the American player's contract. When the player is ready to go back home, his NBA franchise would pay $500,000 to his team in Europe. Maybe the European teams can make a little bit of money that way.
I have learned that the Clippers' offer to the Knicks for
So why did the Nuggets say yes? They're out of the luxury tax next season, that much is true. But couldn't they have bartered a first-round pick in the deal? How does coach
I asked two experts to tell me who they liked in the opening week of summer league here.
"The Blazers are building for the future, and that future may be now. Bayless isn't a true point guard, but he can back up the position a little bit. He's made some nice passes off the pick-and-roll here. And he can play in the backcourt along with
After breakfast, Van Exel went up to his room to dress for the workout. Downstairs in the lobby, Karl was threatening to cancel the workout and drive Van Exel back to the airport, to punish him for his heresy against the Carolina godfather.
"So I'm waiting for him in the lobby,'' Karl said, "and he walks off the elevator wearing a Duke hat.''
He came out of the locker room and walked right past Karl without making eye contact, his Duke turned sideways on his head.
"He said it was coincidence,'' Karl said. "But he knew what was going on. I said to my assistant, 'That's really bull----! But it's good bull----.' "
Van Exel had an excellent workout for the Sonics, and he went on to have a strong 13-year career for six teams other than Seattle. But this week he has been an assistant coach for the summer league team of the Nuggets, whom Karl now oversees as head coach.
"He's pretty good as a coach,'' Karl admitted grudgingly. "He knows the game.''